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Vatican Opposes Death Penalty for Saddam

Vatican Opposes Death Penalty for Saddam

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VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A top Vatican cardinal said Tuesday he felt compassion for Saddam Hussein after seeing video pictures in which, the prelate claimed, American forces treated the captured Iraqi leader "like a beast."

In the first Vatican comment on Saddam's capture, Cardinal Renato Martino said Saddam should face trial, but he stressed the Church's opposition to the death penalty. He told reporters the Vatican hoped Saddam's arrest would "contribute to the pacification and the democratization of Iraq."

Martino said he felt "compassion" for Saddam, even if he was a dictator, after seeing images of "this destroyed man" being "treated like a beast, having his teeth checked" by an American military medic.

Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was speaking at a news conference to launch Pope John Paul II's annual message for the World Day of Peace, which the church celebrates on Jan. 1.

"It seems illusory to hope that it (Saddam's capture) will repair the drama and damage of the defeat against humanity which war always is," Martino said, reiterating the Vatican's deep opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Martino said the Vatican hoped Saddam would face trial in "an appropriate place," but didn't say whether that should be in Iraqi or before an international court.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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